DSA's (Dynamic Search Ads) have been the bane of existence for many Google Ads advertisers. Typically, other Search ad formats such as ETA's (Expanded Text Ads) have been outperforming their dynamic counterparts, even when only 2 of the Headline fields were automated. When going for "Smart", Dynamic Search ads were often preferred as they allowed to keep control over the creatives being used. Low-quality agencies were frequently flogged by the community for their usage of DSA ads, as they were perceived as a 'lazy' way to set up ads for a wide variety of products, for example for eCommerce clients.

However, this has changed over time. With the improvements in Machine Learning in recent months, Google is getting better and better in serving relevant ads and matching them with the right keywords, as well as selecting the right landing pages. DSA's are being increasingly used by account managers to improve accounts and are frequently included in the account structure set-ups, such as in "Hagakure".

Unlock "Additional characters"

Google does not give a clear insight into what data gets used to pull the Headline values. It frequently equals the title tags from the landing pages. However, the Headlines are often significantly longer than the 30 character limit from standard text ads. In fact, an analysis done across 182 000 DSA ads have shown Headlines appear from up to 84 characters in length. 

Implementing DSA

Since Machine Learning is not able to "think logically", it relies on data to learn. Since DSA's sometimes need to learn the behavior of hundreds or thousands of pages, it can take a long time before the algorithm picks up the correct intent from each page (longer than in your regular campaigns). 

Because of the long learning cycle, it may be smart to implement DSA's first to the Categories with high traffic volumes and many historic conversions and take a look at your bidding model status to see if the campaigns have completed their "learning cycle".

Optimizing DSA's

Optimizing your titles and descriptions

PPC professionals are often so specialized in their field of advertising, that they typically don't know much about the field of Organic "SEO". However, as DSA ads are mostly built up from titles and descriptions on the website, it becomes important to optimize them.

Besides the title and description, other content on the pages is very important, as Google crawls the content to best the searcher's intent with the appropriate keywords.

Defining the scope

One thing you can do is to target all pages of your target domain. This will include all kinds of pages, product pages, blog pages, informational pages, etc. This may not even be a bad practice, as Google may by itself figure out the combinations that are highly converting when using appropriate conversion-based bidding. Some informational pages may be surprisingly good at convincing users about the product and drive them to make a conversion.

However, it is probably smart to create some boundaries, by choosing to target only select pages:

  • by Category: categories are assigned by Google based on the category Google assigns to a product, which can at times be very specific and other times much broader.
  • By Page Content: here it's possible to describe key phrases that need to be available on the targeted page.
  • By Page Title or URL: here you can target specific title phrases to target very specific content. While it allows for laser-accurate targeting, the point of Dynamic Search ads of targeting many different pages diminishes.

The scope can (and should) be further narrowed by excluding irrelevant pages. These pages can be excluded under "Negative Dynamic ad targets". These pages are typically the pages with no or low purchase intent:

  • Informational blog posts
  • Terms and conditions
  • Contact pages, about us, etc.
  • Pages with non-deliverable products

Using RLSA

Even when you have added negative targets and have narrowed down the scope of the DSA targeting, DSA will typically show ads for broad queries. It is an immense task to go through all of the keywords and exclude negatives. For that reason, a clever strategy can be to combine DSA campaigns with RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads). Broad keywords fit really well with retargeting as the retargeting layering ensures increased relevance. Keep in mind that for retargeting, there need to be sufficient traffic volumes in the account.

Exclude main keywords

In order to avoid cannibalization in your account, it may be worth excluding your main keywords as negatives from the DSA campaign. Typically, the regular campaigns will outperform DSA campaigns for your top keywords. Without excluding the keywords, both campaigns are eligible and Google may decide to show the DSA campaign while the other would be preferred.

Conclusion

DSA’s are definitely making a comeback in 2021 thanks to improved Machine Learning and Google's understanding of a user's intent. However, even though DSA’s are driven by machine learning, they still require active optimization in order to get the right performance. It requires some patience for the ad format to start performing, so it is recommended to maintain a longer observation period to validate the profitability of the campaigns. Once the campaigns are running smoothly, DSA campaigns are a great source of performance across a broad range of pages and can give the inspiration to try new queries from matched Search Terms.